The Commission has just signed a partnership agreement with the Human Brain Project, a key EU research project aiming to better understand how the human brain works.

logo of the Human Brain Project

Günther H. Oettinger, European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, said: "Understanding the human brain is one of the greatest challenges facing 21st century science. Major challenges like these can only be tackled at European level"  

The Human Brain Project (HBP), launched in 2013, will provide researchers with world-class infrastructure, ICT tools and mathematical models to improve their knowledge of the human brain, its diseases and its computational capabilities.

Today's agreement will enable the Commission to support the HBP until 2020, under the EU research and innovation programme Horizon 2020. The project involves more than 400 researchers from 24 countries from all over Europe. The overall budget of the HBP is estimated to €1 billion over ten years (2013-2023), with support from the Commission and from other partners including universities, industries and Member States' own programmes.

The Framework Partnership Agreement (FPA) signed today formalises the long-term commitment, roles and responsibilities between the HBP project consortium and the Commission until 2020. The agreement reinforces the governance structure of the HBP as well as the essential contribution of cognitive neurosciences in it.  

The Human Brain Project and Graphene were selected in 2013 as Future and Emerging Technologies Flagships to tackle the grand scientific and technological challenges of digital science.

More information on the Human Brain Project (HBP)

The Human Brain Project (HBP), is a €1 billion research initiative to deliver 10 years of world-beating science at the crossroads of science and technology. It was selected for EU funding in January 2013 by a high-level evaluation panel including leading scientists, industrialists and specialists from across a broad range of disciplines.

The HBP is building an ICT research infrastructure for neurosciences, brain medicine and future computing that will provide researchers with computational and big data integration tools and services and mathematical models for modelling and simulating the brain using supercomputers. The HBP brings together many different scientific communities seeking to make advances in neuroscience, computing, robotics and medicine.

Budget and achievements so far

The HBP began operations two years ago. The current phase of the project, under the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7), receives €54 million of EU funding, for 2.5 years, ending in March 2016. The signature of the FPA means the Commission can unlock further funding under Horizon 2020, subject to the successful evaluation of a detailed proposal defining the first 2 years of the FPA action plan which the HBP Consortium will submit to the Commission before the end of the year.

The HBP is rapidly developing its ICT platforms and the first public versions are expected in April 2016. HBP researchers have released the highest resolution 3D map of the human brain that exists and have completed a first draft digital reconstruction of the micro-circuitry of a section the cortex of a rat brain, a remarkable work just published in the Cell journal. They developed and are now testing world-leading, brain-inspired neuromorphic computing chips that rival today’s high-performance computers. A state-of-art supercomputer is being installed to serve the HBP brain simulation needs. HBP researchers have published more than 100 scientific articles. A large part of their work on cognitive architectures was just published in a special issue of the journal Neuron.

Right on track

The FPA agreement signed today also reinforces the governance structure of the HBP and the role of cognitive neurosciences in the project. In summer 2014, members of the neuroscience community expressed concerns about the HBP's scientific scope and governance as outlined in draft plans for the next phase of the project. Responding to these concerns, in July 2014 the Commission informed the research community that draft plans were being evaluated by independent experts and in September 2014 of the results of this evaluation. These experts recommended some improvements to the FPA proposal, which the HBP consortium was asked to integrate into its post-March 2016 plans.

The HBP itself also launched an independent mediation process to address the improvements requested by the independent experts as well as the concerns of the neuroscience community. On 19 March 2015, the HBP management accepted the recommendations of the Mediator, who then published the full mediation report.

The FPA signed today takes full account of the recommendations of the independent experts and of the mediation process. The Commission is confident this FPA addresses the concerns expressed by the neuroscience community.

The HBP also recently announced the results of a call for expression of interest in systems and cognitive neuroscience for the next phase of the project, one of the major recommendations of the HBP Mediation Report. The HBP plans to allocate €8.9 million to these initiatives over the next two years.

Future and Emerging Technologies Flagships

Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) Flagships are visionary, large-scale, science-driven research initiatives which tackle scientific and technological challenges across scientific disciplines. These flagships create synergies amongst national and European research agendas, increase collaboration and efficiency and help to overcome fragmented and scattered research in Europe. The two FET Flagships selected in 2013 - Human Brain Project and Graphene - will have a transformational impact on science and technology. The European Commission is supporting ambitious projects which can deliver significant returns in the long term

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EU world-class research: investing in emerging technologies – and in Europe's future - Blog post by European Commissioner Günther H. Oettinger